I read with interest Henry Jenkins’s post Why The Matrix Matters. Although Henry is right-on-target regarding the technique that the Brothers Wachowski are pioneering, I think that he’s mistaken about the Matrix3 mattering in the long run.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to see both Matrix3 and Terminator3 (the first in a major theater, the second at MIT).
The first Matrix movie was really fantastic. It was epic. I wanted to quit my day job and go hold water for the Wachowski brothers. (As it turns out, I tried — but I found it impossible to contact the reclusive pair or their production company.)
But Matrix2 and Matrix3 just don’t make any sense. If Neo knows that the Matrix isn’t real, why does he bother flying around? When he ends up in “The Mountains” in the middle of M2, why doesn’t he just teleport to where his friends need him? Or fly at 500,000 miles per hour, instead of 5000 miles per hour?
CZ Unit has an interesting take on Matrix 3 in his LiveJournal entry. He argues that the Moriganin is really the only interesting character. “The interesting issue raised in the second movie was that of choice,” writes CZ. “More to the point, you are either someone with goals, plans and dreams or nothing more than a delivery person running errands for those who have goals, plans, and dreams.”
CZ then goes on to argue that Neo is basically doing other people’s bidding–he never has motive of his own.
Personally, I was just disappointed by M3.
T3, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. The story really evolves from T1 to T2 to T3, with the audience learning more and more about the rise of the machines, and the futility of trying to stop it. Characters are lied to, those lies mislead the audience as well, and they drive the plot forward. It didn’t have a video game and an anime DVD, but it’s a better piece of story telling.
Fundamentally, though, both the Terminator stories and the Matrix stories are the same story: at some point within the future, the machines become smarter than we are. In the Matrix world we start the war with them; in the Terminator world they start the war with us. But either way, humans lose. That’s because the computers can be mass-produced and they get smarter, faster, than humans do. They evolve on a much faster time scale.
Science fiction author Vernor Vinge calls the rise of intelligent machines
The Singularity, and he has written about it extensively. It’s bad news for us carbon-based life forms.
In the end, there are only four possible futures:
1 - We destroy our technical capacity to bring about The Singularity before it happens. (I don’t think that this will be the case, but a nuclear war might do the trick.)
2 - The Singularity isn’t technically possible — computers will never get that smart. (I don’t think that this is the case either.)
3 - The Singularity happens, and the computers decide to keep us around out of pity.
4 - The Singularity happens, and within 20-30 years humans simply cease to matter.
I’m hoping for pity. But given the way that humans treat lesser beings, animals, and civilization, I’m expecting #4.